SOUTH HADLEY — Eighteen-year-old Morgan Smith of Westford won the 119th Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Friday at The Orchards Golf Club.
At a dewy tee time of 7:30 a.m., the No. 1-seeded Smith and No. 2-seeded Rebecca Skoler embarked on a match-play championship round to conclude the five-day tournament. Skoler led 13 holes straight until Smith pushed the round to the 18th with birdies on three of the last five holes.
It had been five years since the championship round was played through the 18th.
“She led the match the whole day, so to be able to close it out was just awesome,” Smith said. “This will be my favorite win to date.”
Earlier this year, Smith won the New England Women’s Amateur.
Four bogeys on the front nine pushed Smith back early. On the sixth hole, Skoler’s drive took a sharp cut to the right that landed in the trees and forced a drop. The door looked open for Smith, who had a clear path from the fairway, but her eventual three-putt on the shallow green surrendered the hole to Skoler.
“That was a big momentum shift, because hitting it off the tee, I thought I had lost the hole,” Skoler said.
The University of Virginia junior had a 2-up lead through the front nine.
“I can’t say so much for off the tee or my irons, but my putting and short game today was probably the best of the week,” Skoler said.
Smith came out swinging on the 10th hole, draining a birdie on the 156-yard par-3 that set up momentum she would build on.
With Skoler back to 2-up entering the 16th hole, Smith had to tie or win the hole to avoid an early end to the match. Staying cool, Smith did just that, winning the hole with a par.
And on 17, things finally clicked for Smith.
Confiding in her sister and caddie Maddie, Smith chose 5-iron for the 135-yard par-3. With just 7 yards between the front of the green and the hole, Smith didn’t want to leave this one short.
Instead, she nearly got a hole-in-one, verified by the yells of her father across the green.
“I didn’t know how good it was,” Smith smiled, “but he doesn’t scream unless it’s a kick-in.”
“I see the shot land, it checks, and then spins to the right,” said Phil Smith. “I thought it was going in the hole.
“I could see that shot the whole way, that’s probably why the reaction, because I saw it land.”
Smith birdied the hole to tie Skoler.
It came down to the 370-yard, par-4 18th for the title. The hole played out much the way the day had, with Smith playing from center fairway and Skoler scrambling. After Smith parred, Skoler had a chance to force extra holes, but missed with a wide putt.
“I’m content with how I played,” said Skoler. “I just need to tighten a few things up, but I know that I’ll get another shot to make it here next year.”
The Smith family had good odds this year. Morgan and her two sisters, Molly (17) and Maddie (14), each made it to match play. After Morgan’s win, her sisters sprinkled water over her.
“They’re my best friends,” Morgan said. “They want what’s best for me, I want what’s best for them. It was a special moment to share together.”
And it’s a moment Smith probably wouldn’t have imagined a year ago. She struggled with one of her toughest golf summers last year. In the midst of it, every college where she wanted to play golf told her no.
“They picked apart my golf game and I really had to dig deep into what I want for my future,” Smith said.
Smith will attend Phillips Exeter Academy for a postgraduate year this fall.
“I want to be a great golfer, that’s what I want,” Smith said, “and so I worked really hard and I kind of ignored the recruiting process and acted like it wasn’t happening.
“I focused on my love of the game, so just to come out here and prove myself right, prove the coaches who didn’t believe in me wrong.”
Jayna Bardahl was a Globe intern in 2022. Follow her on Twitter @Jaynabardahl.